Why Was Orb Retired?

When Orb won the Kentucky Derby, it certainly was not a rags-to-riches feel-good story like Smarty Jones or Funny Cide. But in many ways it was just as popular because it brought racing back to a better time and place when sportsmen ruled the sport – people like the Phippses and the Janneys and the Galbreaths and Vanderbilts and Whitneys.

These were high-powered, wealthy people who believed in breeding their own horses, raising them the right way, and most importantly, racing them, usually until the ages of 4 or 5. You rarely saw one of their horses retired at 3 unless it was precipitated by a physical issue that prevented them from racing at the highest level.

The fact that Orb was retired now with a potentially successful 4-year-old campaign ahead of him, and with the Cigar Mile on his agenda just a short while ago, is puzzling enough. After all, a victory in the Cigar Mile would have put Orb right back in the running for the 3-year-old championship. It is the reason, or lack of, for the retirement that makes it all the more frustrating to the colt’s fans and for racing fans in general.

It is just something that came from out of nowhere and was totally out of character for the horses’ owners. The Phipps family and Stuart Janney are the last of a dying breed. They were the ones we clung to in these times when money came before the sport. Not so with Phipps and Janney.

I don’t begrudge any owner for retiring their horse early in his career, especially if offers from major breeding empires are simply too lucrative to pass up. But Claiborne Farm, where Orb will be standing, is part of the Phipps—Janney family and has been for many decades. So money is not the issue. There still is no classier breeding operation in my opinion than Claiborne Farm, historically and currently, and it was Claiborne that made Zenyatta’s loss to Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic so much easier to take, coming on their 100th anniversary.

Stuart Janney said of Orb’s retirement: “While I believe he would have had a very successful 4-year-old campaign, and Phipps Stable and I would have loved being a part of that, Orb is a wonderful stallion prospect.”

Is that it? It is that statement more than the actual retirement that is bothersome, only because it sounds as if it were written by a PR person who is an expert at using words to say little or nothing.

Does anyone have an idea from that comment why Orb was retired? If they, like everyone else, believe Orb would have had a successful 4-year-old campaign and they would have loved to be part of it, then why was he retired? Saying only that Orb is a wonderful stallion prospect is like saying Orb has a tail and mane and eats hay.

Trainer Shug McGaughey said in the Louisville Courier-Journal, “He is sound, looks about as good as he ever has in life, if not better. They just felt like it was the right time to maybe retire a young horse to go to stud. They mulled it back and forth for awhile and really decided last week. Just kind of the way it is. I think he’d have made a good 4-year-old, but how do you ever know?”

Is it me or does McGaughey sound as puzzled as everyone else? His most telling words are, “That’s kind of the way it is.”

Again, Orb’s retirement is not the issue here. It is the reason why he was retired. Don’t the colt’s fans and racing fans in general deserve a better explanation than, “Orb is a wonderful stallion prospect?” Won’t he be a wonderful stallion prospect next year after he has an opportunity to erase his poor and inexplicable performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup?

McGaughey said the horse “is sound and looks as good as he ever has in life, if not better.” So there are no physical issues. That would surely rule out any suspicions regarding Orb having spent most of the second half of the year at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center. I visited Orb there and he looked fantastic and was thriving under the care of Bruce Jackson. He looked magnificent at Saratoga and equally magnificent, if not more, in the paddock at Belmont before the Gold Cup.

I consider myself a racing purist and relished in Orb’s Derby victory because of his connections. Stuart Janney is one of the nicest, classiest gentlemen I’ve met in the sport. And no family epitomizes what racing stands for more than the Phippses, the last of the great sportsmen.

That is why Orb’s retirement is so puzzling. I in no way am saying Orb should not be retired. Perhaps they felt he no longer was happy as a racehorse and that the Gold Cup was the first sign of that. That is perfectly plausible. All I’m asking is why he was retired, as delicately as they wish to put it. Perhaps I have no right to ask that. Orb is not my horse, and any owner has the right to do whatever he or she wants with their horse.

I have been involved in racing for over 45 years, and this particular retirement out of the blue and with no explanation is hard to comprehend from a historical and purist point of view. The sport, as always, will go on, and I’ve been around long enough where I’ve seen most everything in racing. Therefore, I do not feel hurt or disappointed or upset in any way. But I do feel naïve.

Orb Memories

With best pal Jennifer Patterson

With Alison McGaughey

Beautiful morning at Belmont

A handsome portrait

Five a.m. in the round pen at Fair Hill

In the Saltwater Spa at Fair Hill

Derby morning with Shug McGaughey

A congratulatory kiss from Alison McGaughey after the Derby

Enjoying all the well-deserved affection


Leave a Comment:


Having first seen Orb on Cigar Mile Day last year, it is disappointing not to have him return for that great day of racing at the Big A. My only thought is that although the horse may be "sound", his development simply might have peaked on the first Saturday in May. He may have been judged by his connections as just not competitive at the highest levels anymore. His performance in the JCGC might support such an explanation.

Fans of this colt will still have his performances in late 2012 and the first half of 2013 to remember him by. Those alone were quite a career in themselves.

09 Nov 2013 1:23 PM

i'm left in a similar state of wonderment.  i've been wondering how he's doing since that disappointing performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and between that and all the time at Fair Hill i'm still wondering if there's a physical issue.  still, if there were, why would McGaughey have said what he said?

there are a lot more questions than answers here.  thank you for making a good case for a straight answer about Orb's retirement.

09 Nov 2013 2:07 PM
Carlos in Cali

"Money is the root of all evil."

$40k Stud fee as opposed to $12-$20 if he keeps running sub-par races next year,IMO.

09 Nov 2013 2:10 PM
anita b

Hi Steve,

 A great article; like you I have been a long time fan of the Phipps/Janney horses. And I wonder why too. Is it possible that Orb just got tired of running/ie soured out? I know the Phipps family usually let their horses until 5 or 6 years old. So I am wondering why too. love the pictures. Poor Jen. Thanks again, Anita

09 Nov 2013 2:19 PM
Love 'em all

If I had to guess the reason Orb was retired, it would be because he just didn't enjoy being a racehorse.  And if that's the reason, then they did right by the horse.  No one knows Orb better than his connections.  They always say .... "I'll wait and let my horse tell me what he wants to do."  He must have, huh?

All the pics are wonderful, Mr. Haskin, but the pics of Orb with Shug's wife are my favorites.  Perhaps Orb confided in her as to his wishes for the future, which didn't include racing.  Just a thought ...  

Orb will be missed terribly.  Best wishes to him and to all his wonderful connections.

09 Nov 2013 2:25 PM
Steve Haskin

I agree he may have soured on racing, and perhaps got too used to the quiet, serene life at Fair Hill, but he only ran one bad race following an excellent performance in the Travers. What I dont understand is why he was considered a probable starter for the Cigar Mile and why they didnt provide a better explanation for his retirement. Any PR person could have written a prepared, carefully worded statement without getting into any details -- mental or physical -- while putting closure to it. As for physical, Shug said he was doing as good as he ever has. I took that to mean mentally as well. It's just something I dont understand and some sort of reasonable explanation would have satisfied everyone.

09 Nov 2013 2:42 PM

He was retired because his owners could have felt that if he lost form like he had in the latter part of the year it would diminish his stature as a stallion next year. After having won the Derby this year it would have made sense for him to stay in training in 2014 only if his connections felt he could have won another group 1, which according to me they were not very confident of.

09 Nov 2013 2:52 PM
Steve Haskin

Coldfacts, I have stated time and again that personal attacks will not be tolerated on this blog. I told that to Jersey Boy and I am now telling that to you. I cannot monitor every comment in its entirety, but like Jersey Boy, also be advised comments of a personal nature such as yours will not be accepted. I hope this is the last time I have to mention this.

09 Nov 2013 2:53 PM
Rebecca Johnston

Orb has figured this game out or the talent has passed him by.  Whatever I think they do not want to see another race like the last.  He just does not look like he is enjoying it anymore, he is thin, stressed and washy before the races now too.  He looked like he was giving everything he had in the Travers and just wasn't up to it and he is smart enough to know that.  He is going to make a wonderful sire and with some of the bad luck Claiborne has had with Swale, Lure, Easy Goer and Forty Niner let them have this guy.  The argument is a little unfair as this is normal practice for most and the Phipps and the Janneys have given so much.  Besides it was painful to watch his last race and if there was something underlying like heart condition anything that they can't see, let him go home.  He looked like he wanted to go home.  As they say maybe it just got too hard.

09 Nov 2013 2:57 PM

Did Orb have surgery on his nostrils? I don't know why but in some of the photos they seem to look a little odd to me don't know why.

09 Nov 2013 3:00 PM

I agree with just about everything that has been said here. Orb may be soured on racing, could be those involved are afraid he will not remain sound and could possible breakdown during a race. Retirement will hopefully make them a big profit and who knows maybe a future Triple Crown winner? If he is not sterile and doesn't have a freak accident like others have had happen that caused them to be euthanized. It is horse racing and if something can go wrong it will or maybe not.

09 Nov 2013 3:06 PM
Judi Zangs

I was hoping your column shed would shed some light on it; love the horse and so hoped to see him race again.  I, too, thought there would be an explanation from his connections.  I'd even rather hear the horse just wasn't happy at the track, he proved himself on the big day, and they felt this was best for Orb.  

09 Nov 2013 3:08 PM
Steve Haskin

Rebecca, it is because they have given so much that makes the decision so puzzling without an explanation. There is no argument here. I have no objection to their retiring the horse and wish him all the best at stud. All I was looking for was a reason, and they could have put it as delicately as they wanted. There was no need to go into any details, just something to put closure to a wonderful campaign and career and not leave so many questions unanswered.

09 Nov 2013 3:12 PM

As Malibu Moon being one of my top 3 favorite sires, Tapit and Bernardini, being the other two, I too was dissapointed in Orb's retirement. I have to say I agree with what most the past bloggers have stated above.  I mostly think Orb isn't into the racing anymore and I also agree if he keeps throwing in clunkers it will diminish his value as a stud.  In the end it is a business.  I'm happy Orb is going to a wonderful stud farm like Claiborne, and the great Secretarat also stood there.  I look forward to seeing the little Orb's running in the future.  Good luck Orb, you were awesome in the Derby.  Enjoy your retirement.  I'll miss you.

09 Nov 2013 3:19 PM
Daniel Lewis

I love Orb, I feel in the end it really is no ones darned business what they do with the horse they own him and pay the bills not me or any other fans questioning his retirement. Yes he could have a very successful 4 year Old season emphasizing the COULD, the last place effort in his most recent race possibly was an omen for things to come, maybe while he looks good and feels good and is sound, he may not have that competitive drive that others have.. Why run him 2 or 3 times as a 4 year old with lackluster results and risk injury or death? From a business standpoint you take that 25,000 dollar starting fee, and for every poor start it drops 10,000. Why take the chances he has the ingredients to be a sire, He has a tremendous female family full of sires and broodmares and he is the best son of his sire to retire, so why not.. They dont have to explain a thing to me.. As a fan they gave me a very happy Kentucky Derby memory that saw me crying at the finish. I would rather see him go out like this then struggling in cheaper and cheaper races. Great owners do whats best for the horses, this is not ever about fans. Another great horse will come along to replace Orb as a fan favorite.. Then that one will retire, and the debate will start again as to whether or not that horse retired to soon, or if he runs to long and breaks down they go when was enough.. Sometimes you are spramped if you do and you are spramped if you dont. I've just learned to appreciate the moments Im given with these horses.

09 Nov 2013 3:19 PM

Actually looking closer it looks like he has a scar on his nostrils where he got a good cut? Poor guy. Orb you are so tough!

09 Nov 2013 3:22 PM
Soldier Course

Six months ago the stars seemed to be aligned to deliver our 12th Triple Crown winner, Orb. Since then Orb's racing gods have taught us the difference between an optimist and a pessimist in this game. The optimist says, "Don't let your opportunities obscure your dreams." The pessimist says, "Don't let your dreams obscure your opportunities."

I'd like to think that Orb's owners have done his fans a favor here.

09 Nov 2013 3:37 PM
Thoroughbreds are the best

It is very odd.  While I am not in the breeding business, I cannot imagine that prospective brood mare owners would be questioning the same things we are.  Why would one breed to a horse that was inexplicably retired?  Why would you want to breed to a stalliion that lost the will to win or became sour?  If that is the issue.  Clearly it shouldn't (couldn't)  be the money?  As much heat as Mr. Reddam got for the quick retirement of I'll have Another (a horse without the instant backing of the greatly respected Claiborne Farm), this seems much more unreasonable and difficult to accept.  Of course it is their horse, but this horse became a fan favorite in part due to his classy connections.  Sadly, this seems very unsporting from people portrayed as the epitome of sporting.  It just doessn't smell right.  I feel vey sorry for Shug and his staff.  They have had anumber of good ones retire after working so hard to keep them healthy and happy.

09 Nov 2013 3:42 PM
Thoroughbreds are the best

Also very sad about Ron the Greek leaving the country to an unidentified destination.  At least his connections had an explanation though I wish it was more palatable.  I worry about him and hope he does not disappear off the radar and into danger.

09 Nov 2013 3:49 PM

those of you who said they may have stopped running Orb because he doesn't like to race -- that's a perfect reason to retire a horse, and may well be it here.  i don't know.  however, the owners and trainer should have called it what it is, and announced that as their reason if that was in fact the case.  there should be no shame in realising a horse doesn't enjoy running races, and letting them retire -- and it would be better to tell the sport's fans that, instead of providing such vacuous "explanations".

09 Nov 2013 4:10 PM

I was personally surprised they were pointing him at the Cigar Mile, he has never struck me as a particularly fast horse, the Clark would have made more sense to me.  I thought perhaps part of the choice was the race was seen as a "stallion maker".  My take is that Orb's continuing to race was viewed as counterproductive to his future value based on how he was training (either lackluster or in light of how the Mile was shaping up).  I did notice in a recent interview with Shug (about the BCC), when Orb's name came up, a look of distress/pain came into his eyes.  I wondered if he was still smarting about the JCGC, or current events.  Regardless, I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for Shug, I wish him the best.

09 Nov 2013 4:29 PM

His dam had 23 starts.  His sire is Malibu Moon.

As a former dog breeder, the topic of breeding to the sire or breeding to his son always was a question.  Personally, I'd breed to the sire.

09 Nov 2013 4:30 PM

Like so many here, I think the horse just wasn't happy running and the owners, always classy, did the right thing by him.  Love Orb - saw his Derby - and will visit him at Claiborne.

09 Nov 2013 4:58 PM
Brown brother

Phipps sold Boisterous last week at Keeneland, which is the first time I can remember one of his multiple graded stakes winning homebred breeding prospects being sold at auction, so we are reminded that even (perhaps especially) for the rich money trumps sportsmanship.  And, Steve, do you really believe it feasible that Phipps or Janney would ever admit they were primarily motivated by money or that Orb was done as a top notch competitor?

09 Nov 2013 5:11 PM

I never really bought into the Orb hype after the Derby.  He caught a track that day he handled better than the others, and while he ran decently in the other 2 legs of the TC, neither race was truly impressive.  If Orb had any other owners than the Phippses and Janneys; this blog wouldn't exist.  It would be clear the horse was being retired while he still had a decent stud value.  Because of his connections, we are grasping at straws for another explanation.  Frankly, I don't think anyone hoping for a successful stud career is going to say their horse was retired because he lost his will to win, and from my perspective, this is almost worse than retirement due to an injury. If a horse is exceptionally brilliant, he'll attract mares even if there may be soundness issues, but who wants to breed to a horse without heart?

09 Nov 2013 5:15 PM

Being a newbie to racing I "discovered" Orb with the Kentucky Derby only. He gave his heart and all he had, maybe because he felt how much they wanted a win here, deserved a win here and never had enough stomach left to do another such race. With all the mud and the rain and the speed... they so deserved to win this, his connections. But I feel like Orb deserves just as much to go on, as beautiful as his race was. May he have many brilliant off-springs. Will wait for those....

09 Nov 2013 5:28 PM
Steve Haskin

Hey, let's not ignore my beautiful photos. LOL

09 Nov 2013 5:33 PM
Abigail Anderson

Glad to know that I'm not the only one in a state of shock here! But before I add my comment I do want to point out that I don't have anywhere near the depth that you Steve or that others who comment here have when it comes to the current NA thoroughbred industry. Other than the possibility he might have, indeed, lost his appetite for racing, I find myself wondering whether or not it wasn't more about Claiborne needing a high profile stallion prospect in 2014, given the relatively recent loss of Pulpit. True, they already have ARCH and WAR FRONT, but the others on their stallion roster are either young, unproven stallions or older stallions with modest success. ORB gives them the A.P. INDY sire line and a high profile addition to their stallion roster. True, BLAME, TRAPPE SHOT & ALGORITHMS might turn out to be brilliant. But, then again......right?

09 Nov 2013 6:05 PM
Abigail Anderson

WHOOPS! YUP, the photos are a TEN, Steve!

09 Nov 2013 6:05 PM

`I was one of Orbs biggest fans to take the Triple Crown after that amazing Derby run. Was looking forward to his return next year and like so many was shocked to read of his retirement and was so relieved that he had not been injured. Maybe he just was not interested in racing anymore as has been stated above. He has certainly matured into a great looking horse over the summer and looks to be in great physical shape. But horses (as a horse owner) can be strange little creatures sometimes as they mature mentally they are ready to go onto something else. And there is no shame in that for the horse or the owners, that is just a horse for you. Another reason, and please feel free to correct me if I am mistaken, but I think Orb goes back to Ruffian. Maybe the owners are wanting to keep that bloodline going. Whatever the reason, I am sure that the owners did what was in the best interest of Orb and not for greed. They are very highly respected and are true horsemen in my book. Though I too would like to know why, I realize that we may never know why for sure. I guess we just have to respect their decision. I look forward to his babies in a couple of years. Good Luck Orb in your new profession, do us proud which I know you will!

09 Nov 2013 6:17 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, you are a hoot! Your pictures are fantastic, as always. You have another career as a National Geographic photographer if you choose (their pictures are the best on earth). I think Orb had lost his competitive drive and they didn't want to lose any stud money by letting it show in future races. Just a guess. I know these people probably don't need the money, but rich people are rich because they like making money.

09 Nov 2013 6:21 PM

I'm glad you asked that question, I was asking myself the same when I heard. Whatever the reason, I hope he has every success in his new career. And yes, the photos are great, thanks.

09 Nov 2013 6:42 PM

Steve, could a reason for the early unexpected retirement be that the insurance on the horse was to much and retirement was the most economical answer?

09 Nov 2013 6:46 PM

To those concerned about Ron The Greek, rest easy. I know where he's going and he will be in exceptionally good hands and receive the best of care.

As far as Orb; the verbiage in the announcement was, I'm sure, well calculated, not off the cuff. It was a business decision; for many years now their stable (and breeding operation) is run with the bottom line in mind. Can't blame them at all. And, by the way; several have offered that the Phipps and Janneys have "given so much". What is it that they have given? How many wouldn't jump at the chance at becoming members of The Jockey Club, or other related organizations?  

09 Nov 2013 7:02 PM
Steve Haskin

All the suppositions are possible and all would make sense, but we just don't know for sure. I guess all we can do is just wish him good luck at stud.

Paula, I dont think National Geographic would work out. I have no photos of naked tribeswomen in my portfolio.

09 Nov 2013 7:08 PM
Jack Pryor

I don't know about this, Steve.  Ever since I found out that Mr. Fantasy had been gelded and turned out to pasture, I've lost faith with these owner/breeders.  Orb is a good horse, not great, but well bred and his salad days are behind him.  It's a business, isn't it after all?

09 Nov 2013 7:17 PM

Love, love, love the photos! Especially the ones where his eyes are closed in horsey bliss.  I'm equally perplexed by the decision to retire him but I'll also add that perhaps it is more mental and he simply doesn't have that will to compete anymore.  With the longstanding "relationship" that Steve enjoys with these connections, I can also share his "disappointment" in not being given anything more substantial (no disrespect towards Shug or the owners....) Maybe more details will be forthcoming.  Whatever the reasons, I'll wish him well....& will remember  his Derby (my pick!) with great memories of him splashing down the stretch.   I'll be sure to visit him at Claiborne next time I'm there.  

09 Nov 2013 7:40 PM

Tiz the LOVE OF MONEY that is the root of all evil. Sounds to me that the Love of Money won out over the Love of Seeing Orb Run as a 4 year old. Maybe expectations were too high after the KY Derby.

09 Nov 2013 7:44 PM
ceil rock

I think they were hoping he had a chance for an Eclipse award as best 3-yr-old. However, after the BC Classic, I can't imagine Will Take Charge not getting it. The Cigar Mile is taking shape as a really deep race. If Orb ran poorly, it would tarnish his reputation even further. Best to go ahead and retire him now. He will get every chance to make it as a stallion.

09 Nov 2013 7:52 PM

You say money is not the issue with the owners retiring Orb. The really rich are not satisfied with being rich. They want more, and more, and more money.

And please, no more long shot handicapping.

09 Nov 2013 8:02 PM

I saw Orb at Saratoga this year.  He is striking.  My gut feeling tells me that there might be a small issue that with running might cause pain or a breakdown in the future.  Why risk it. His owners are true horse people and can simply put the horses' well being first.  Horses' well being before the almighty dollar.  It's a strange concept we are not use too.  Best of luck to Orb in his new job.    

09 Nov 2013 8:24 PM

His unhappiness on the track and subsequent performance is an inverse relationship to the $$$$$$$$$$$ his owners could earn by having him in the shed. They should have waited and given him another shot in the mud.  Really a shame (and Verrazano is going out after his next start).

09 Nov 2013 8:34 PM
Mary McLeod

Hi Steve!!

Thank you once again for a well-written and well-considered essay!…The photos are touching!! I especially like the ones of him with Alison McGaughey and with Jen.

I am a big fan of Orb too. I think Orb was retired because he lost his confidence. When he returned from Fair Hill, did you look at the look on his face when he was prevented from making his move just before the far turn?? Perhaps they should have played the theme song from "Rocky" at Fair Hill!! LOL

I have nothing but respect for the Phipps-Janney family, and I certainly wish there were more like them in our treasured sport today. If they had decided to retire him for the sheer pleasure of seeing him each day, I would say ok. However, I think Orb lost his groove.

I hope to see him at Claiborne. He is in the stall of my Secretariat, to whom I lost my heart many years ago.

Keep up the GREAT work, Steve!!!

Take care,

Mary in Boone

PS Your English teachers must be quite proud of you and your writing!!!!

09 Nov 2013 8:36 PM
John from Baltimore

Sad for racing that Kentucky Derby winners can't seem to make any impact as late three year olds or four year olds like they did before.  With all the horses going to stud before thier four old year to prove thier toughness and with ten starts, better get use to it.

09 Nov 2013 8:40 PM

Mr.. Haskin,

I have noted your comments and I was of the opinion that I have been operating within the guidelines you have repeatedly outlined.

You did not specify the personal attack of which I am guilty. I have therefore concluded that it was contained in my last post regarding the comparison of the records of Goldikova and Wise Dan.

I regarded a particular statement  by a contributor as laughable. It would be a stretch for such a declaration to be considered a personal attack.

I specified that the particular contributor should do the right thing and reverse the insult to the brilliant race mare Goldikova by posting a retraction if his ego would allow.

It is again a stretch to regard the above a personal attack in light of the fact that the contributor once asked me, who do I thing I am? He was not shy to point out that legal term should not be directed at him as he possessed a Law Degree.  

The particular contribute has left no stones unturned to discredit my views and has disrespected me over a very long period.

In many of my posts I have ascribed to him academic dominion and request that he bypass my posts and focus on those submitted more learned contributors. However, it appears I am the contributor that he find most annoying and has directly and indirectly posted subtle insults and has spared no effort to project me as an idiot.

I can provide a long list of your supporters that have directed vicious insults to me over the years. I seem to be a magnet for these attacks.

In any instance where it appears that I have responded in a fashion you consider either inappropriate or offensive, they drew first blood.

I might be a lot of things but rude and impolite without provocation is not one of them. I have always tried to treat everyone of your supporters with respect. If on occasions I have been unknowingly offensive, I have without request posted an apology.

Again, I have subjected myself to another of your reprimands. It will be your final.

09 Nov 2013 9:06 PM

Absolutely love your photos, Steve - they are all wonderful.  My favorite is the post Derby kiss from his trainer's wife.  Beautiful.  As far as the perplexing question, it really distresses me but I'm thinking we will never hear the true answer and I don't think that is very sportsmanlike.

09 Nov 2013 9:33 PM
Donut Jimmy

I am a big Phipps/Janney/McGaughey fan. I too wonder why Orb was retired given what was said by Janney and McGaughey. I guess that leaves the decision either in the Phipps court, or there is indeed something with the horse that makes the decision more clear (to all of them, but not us).

If the decision came from the Phipps end, it may have been largely a decision by Daisy Phipps Pulito who is now the racing manager for her father's stable. Have they had any major stallion prospects since she began managing? (I have no idea how long she has been the racing manager, I encountered her name connected with Abaco's win at Churchill.) If this is her first big stallion prospect, that could affect the decision making. Or then again, maybe not that either.

Orb has always been managed differently than most of Shug's horses by being based at Fair Hill. Some horses just enjoy the peace and quiet but...if he is truly sound, and not sour, there has to be something else.

Didn't he come to NY from Fair Hill more in advance of the JCGC than he did prior to other races? And then he ran poorly in that one. Maybe there is something there, but they sure are not letting us know. I wish they would too.


09 Nov 2013 9:39 PM

Why was Orb retired? So simple. He was a one hit wonder. He scored (some may say admirably, I reserve comment)in the Kentucky Derby. With every successive race, his rising star was tarnished, so much so that his Derby appeared to be a fluke. That's not a good omen for a stallion, and so it's on to his next assignment. Hopefully he's more successful in that role.

09 Nov 2013 10:00 PM

Maybe, just maybe, there has been a tremendous amount of interest expressed to them, to breed to him. Could be they are making this decision, partly, because of what their customers have requested. Let's face it, this was where he was headed anyway; why wait?

09 Nov 2013 10:11 PM
Paula Higgins

OMGosh your comment brings back memories Steve! My mother would always hide my father's National Geographics because of the nude tribeswomen pictures (to no avail I might add). I loved that magazine. Now I get the Smithsonian Magazine. No nude tribeswomen.

09 Nov 2013 10:43 PM
Rachel best 3 yr old filly ever

Phipps & company were the last ownership group I would had ever predicted to retire a sound 3 yr old Derby winner at this stage in his career. Steve, you are correct to ask why? A better explanation then the statement that Mr. Phipps provided is needed for us racing fans. Maybe it was Orb into racing anymore, maybe it was b/c they didn't want to take a chance in Orb losing badly in the Cigar mile and his stud fee would be set a lot less. Specualtion abound! I wish Orb all the best and his connections. I look forward to Honor Code and hoping he can put in a repeat performance for Shug and Mr. Phipps. I will be rooting for them! Steve great article and pics! Also my heart goes out to The Paul Moran family. We lost a great sports writer over at ESPN.

09 Nov 2013 11:18 PM

What if?  

Big offer for War Front?

Malibu Moon waning?

Lots of great mares from the sale looking for a stallion?

He's looking for action like AK in England instead of keeping his mind on racing.  Even if he's bored with his old job, that could be a relevant explanation.  ???

10 Nov 2013 12:02 AM
Steve Haskin

Coldfacts, when you start referring to someone’s ego that is getting personal. Your comment precipitated a personal lashing upon yourself from the party involved, which I was forced to delete, which in turn led to the voluntary departure from this blog by that party. That is his choice. It is not my job to moderate this blog, but I do it to assure the swift exchange of comments. But I do not have the time to read every comment in its entirety and play referee, so I must ask the posters to keep personal digs to themselves, which I have done repeatedly. Your comments could easily have been made without adding that last line about the person’s ego. You take issue with many of the comments on here and throw people’s words back at them with their own quotes, which is fine if that’s the way you wish to make your point, but know that people don’t always respond kindly to that. When you get personal on top of that, the results can start to get ugly.

10 Nov 2013 12:22 AM

Steve : The way you described Orb's connections, I personally think they are thinking about his reputation more so than the stud fee when talking about his lack of form.  I firmly believe that they would rather retire him than see more criticisms about the horse.  As you said, money is not the issue here.

And yes, you've always taken great pictures, it's really the angles of your shots that makes them really good.  Each one makes me think what's going on at the time the picture was taken.

10 Nov 2013 1:01 AM

I have been told that the government changed the tax laws where people in the horse racing and breeding businesses must show profits so many times in so many years in order to qualify as a business rather than as a mere hobby, which can make huge differences in taxes.

It might be a simple business explanation as to why Orb has been retired and why the breeding rights of Point of Entry were sold by the Phipps family rather than anything being wrong with either horse.

Orb is a multiple grade 1 winner with royal bloodlines, coming from a strong sire line which has produced multiple sires of sires and who also has a strong female family going back to the great broodmare Shananigans.

Point of Entry, a multiple grade 1 winner with incredibly strong female lines, might be one of our best chances to keep the important Dynaformer branch of the Roberto sire line alive.

Retiring Orb and selling the breeding rights to Point of Entry might have been straightforward business decisions by the Phippses. And perhaps they are looking ahead and doing some estate planning at the same time?(Sorry if that part sounds morbid.)

10 Nov 2013 2:09 AM
Tana Rae

Thank you Steve for your endearing photographs of Orb.  You really have a knack for capturing these beautiful racehorses with their personality showing.  Orb getting love pats and kisses from the gentle women in his life:  the trainer's wife and Jen.  I'll never forget the photo you took of Secretariat when you visited him one day at Claiborne. He was standing at the fence with his head over the rail, clutching a stick in his mouth as if saying, "come on, play with me!".  You seem to be tuned in to the little, subtle gestures that say so much about these magnificent creatures.  Thank you for your keen eye!

10 Nov 2013 2:11 AM
Susan W.

Is it my imagination or did Orb lose his zest for racing after his performance in the KY Derby ???  He has never been the same since that muddy, messy day.  It's as if he did his job that day and then said, "OK, I've been there, done that.  That was a lot of work.  I do not need to do that again."  Just wondering....  A horse's mental state is also a part of his or her make-up, and does determine whether or not continuing a racing career is the right path for the horse.

10 Nov 2013 5:51 AM

They obviously did not believe their statement - that is, the Janeys and the Phipps - that Orb would have a successful campaign as a 4 year old. Steve rightly describes it as an unsatisfying, say nothing PR statement. Apparently, it was designed to cover up their real feelings and motives that they did not think would wash in the racing world where premature retirements have become the all too unsatisfying norm. The racing public was owed a more honest explanation as to the retirement. Now Janey was nowhere as bad as Hollendorfer who offered no explanation when he retired Blind Luck and cursed at Jason Shandler when he called Hollendorfer on behalf of the Bloodhorse to inquire about the mare's condition. Still, as Steve laments, Orb's connections - some of the classiest people in the game who do not normally operate this way - owed racing fans a more upfront, forthcoming explanation as to the whys and wherefores of Orb's retirement. I personally was not surprised at the retirement in light of the way Orb tailed off badly following his Derby win so like Steve I can only regard the blather about the certainty the colt would have a successful 4 year old campaign as empty PR talk.

10 Nov 2013 9:12 AM

I think Orb was retired while he will still be remembered chiefly as this year's Derby winner instead of next year as, yes, he won the Derby but hasn't done much since. The latter scenario would impact his value at stud. Had Orb set the track on fire since May, won the Travers and/or the BC Classic, he probably still would have been retired as he would have become too valuable to take out of the barn. But as he has been a dud since the Derby, I have to assume his connections felt better to rest on his laurels taken six months ago than continue to have his finish up the track for another year and see his value as a stallion reduce by half.

10 Nov 2013 9:24 AM

Why was Orb retired with relativelyno explanation?  I can only speculate but I suspect my opinion is in line with many of the other posters.  Should he continue racing and continue to decline, his stud value will diminish considerably.  And yes, Mr. Haskin, you are very much correct in that "we" have grown to accept so much more from the true-blue-bloods of TB racing.

Speaking strictly from a "breed to race" perspective, I would not be sending any mares to Orb or most of the other youngsters that have been retired recently.  As a breeder, I want a stallion that has had longevity on the track.  I don't much care if he's lost a couple of races.  A 3 or 4 year old who retires "sound" is not nearly as important to me as a horse who has done something other than show brilliance in a couple of races.  Again, as "breed to race" operation, I want babies that can go the long haul.  

[A good example of this; in January, I will be sending 3 mares to a stallion who won a few minor stakes races but ran and was competitive until he was 6.  He retired sound and his get are showing the same longevity on the track as he did.]

10 Nov 2013 10:34 AM

Like you said is really sad to see such a magnificent horse retired at such a young age,but it is their horse and when you own something you dispose of it as you please.Sad for the fans but such is life.

10 Nov 2013 10:39 AM
Del Mar Dixie

It's actually a rather obvious answer. Look at what Shug did with him between races towards the end end. He sent him to Fair Hill and trained him there. So one must ask the question why would he ship him the day afterhis races to Fair Hill,not just once but repeatedly.  The reason is they had a hyperbaric chamber and Orb needed treatment in it. The reason he was retired was he became a bad bleeder and was bleeding through his Lasix. Now the reason know one knows this is an because with THE CHANCE OF Lasix becoming a band substance, breeders will not breed to horses with a history of bleeding. He was simply never going to regain his earlier form because of this condition hence hewas retired.

10 Nov 2013 11:17 AM
Mister Frisky

Steve,I like your theory on the Fair Hill angle.Those horses have it great there, look no further than all the Graham Motion dull runners that don't fire a lick.Orb got very good for 5 months,he has regressed, and his classmates have passed him up.The Phipps family never should have sold a majority of POE to Adena,a much better racehorse with a superior pedigree.Look for Orb in Korea,Japan,or Turkey in a few years.

10 Nov 2013 11:19 AM

Time to start adding naked tribeswomen photos to your portfolio, Steve.

Orb's retirement is very confusing. As many of the previous contributors stated, racing may just not be the career of his choice. That being said, I personally would not want to breed my mare to a stallion that retired because he did not want to race. The other alternative could be that there is some sub-clinical medical issue causing what appears to be declining performance. Again, this does not add to his value as a stallion. Of course, his owners have the right to define his future career, but I can't believe that the manner in which they chose to announce his retirement will be conducive to attracting quality mares.

10 Nov 2013 11:24 AM

I think duchess nailed it.....proud families not wishing to divulge their business' profit status plus estate planning, which is prudent...

10 Nov 2013 11:57 AM

I notice his knees are done up. He was up to his knees in the spa. My educated guess is, he has a chip or more in both knees. Breeders don't want us to know that. Nothing new.

10 Nov 2013 11:58 AM
Steve Haskin

Del Mar Dixie, the bleeding has been bantered about for a while and the most likely explanation for the hyperbaric chamber. But it isnt about that, it is about the lack of explanation and say-nothing comment. I understand the reason for keeping that out of the public, but there are delicate ways of announcing a retirement that any PR person could put out. I could write one in 10 minutes that would keep everyone satisfied without bringing up bleeding. If he is indeed a bad bleeder, I'm sure the breeders are aware of it. By saying only that he would have had a successful 4-year-old campaign and they would have loved to run him at 4, on top of Shug's comment, it's just rubbing salt in the wound. Again, maybe I'm being naive, but I do believe the fans who supported him all year deserve something more than they got.

10 Nov 2013 12:01 PM

Anybody here excited to be able to breed with Orb while he is in the strength of his youth? Personally, I think his offspring will be worth every penny and pain. Wouldn't want to breed to any other....

10 Nov 2013 2:19 PM

The photos of Orb are great and show what appears to be a kind horse with a gentle nature. I wish Orb only the very best in his new career. He will always be a Kentucky Derby winner. If his owners wish to elaborate further ob their reasons for retiring him, they will. If not, so be it. God bless you, Orb, and thank you for all the thrills you provided us during your racing career. :)

10 Nov 2013 2:28 PM

I recall reading that Orb came in from the field as a youngster with a torn nostril.  That is the source of the scar.

As for his retirement, I am a huge fan of Orb and I would far rather he be retired than to run him into the ground.  Perhaps if he has a bleeding problem that interferes with his performance, he can be carefully bred to mares without a history of bleeding, and his offspring can be healthy.  If racing has become a mental problem for him that might impair his racing career but could be something that would not be passed on in the breeding shed, the decision is perfectly reasonable.

I also believe in magic to a degree, and if I were an owner of a top-class horse and the back of my neck told me to retire him or something bad would happen to him, I would listen to the back of my neck. He was sent to Fair Hill for one or more reasons.  I choose to accept the retirement without insisting on an explanation.  Instead, I will look forward to seeing his babies.

10 Nov 2013 3:03 PM
Donut Jimmy

IF, I say IF Orb is indeed a bad bleeder (and Del Mar Dixie makes a strong case for it) then that info getting out could indeed affect Orb's stud value. But as the Phipps' and certainly Janney's have always been sportsmen. Surely it would be better to let that information be public, even knowing it would have some negative monetary effect, then to keep your future customers (mare owners) in the dark about a known problem.

Other very publicly acknowledged bleeders have have strong stud careers (Unbridled is one, Nafzger was very clear about it. Summer Squall is another, he skipped the Belmont because he could not get Lasix in NY at the time, and he had bled after a routine GALLOP, the day before he won the Preakness Stakes. See www.nytimes.com/.../horse-racing-bleeding-recurs-but-squall-still-in-preakness.html

Honestly, if Orb were known to be a serious bleeder, I would not breed to him (or at least not until he had plenty of active children who did NOT show such a propensity.) But my views are extreme, and even with such a thing known, plenty of people would be willing to give him a try. At the very least, coming clean about such a thing would allow a breeder with a mare who had shown a bleeding tendency, to make intelligent and informed decisions regarding duplicating that trait on both sides of a pedigree.

I would love to hear an explanation of his retirement.

10 Nov 2013 5:05 PM
Donut Jimmy

FWIW Orb's stud fee has been set at $25,000

10 Nov 2013 5:07 PM


10 Nov 2013 5:39 PM
Del Mar Dixie

Steve, how many times have you ever seen a PR release on a stud state whyhewas being retired? It never happens. It's always some rosey fodder that says the horse is retiring sound. It's become a standard template for these owners to simply fill in the blanks. The reason they state all those hyperbole's is simply because they are trying to sell him as a stud.

If you look at the whole picture the writing was on the wall with him. Why would Shug even aim for the Cigar mile with him after that campaign? It would be morehis style to rest him up and aim at a 4yo campaign.The only reason they wanted the Cigar mile is one last reinforcement for breeders. Thats all it was.he was retired long before this announcement.  

10 Nov 2013 5:42 PM

I'm rather glad I'm not the only one left scratching my head after Orb's retirement was announced. I'm thrilled that he is sound and not hanging it up for health reasons, but that's where the mystery comes in. Orb is certainly in good company, those who just couldn't put it back together after a great triple crown campaign. However, could he have put it back together? That will forever be the big question. They even tried Mine that Bird at 4, although I think they did a rotten job of it. I'm one who subscribes to the theory that these equine athletes don't really enjoy grazing all day and living their lives just soaking up the sun and breathing fresh air. Most of them are waiting for a fan to snap a photo or give them a mint and look at them in awe. A 3 year old is trading his stardom for boredom. My opinion, for what it's worth. Still sorry to see Orb go. I think he could've come back into the game. If not, at least a try at it would've been more satisfying. Always & Forever a Derby winner, Orb. They can't take that from you.

10 Nov 2013 6:05 PM
Steel Dragon

I'm not buying the theory that he lost his interest or desire to run. Thoroughbreds are bred to do nothing but run. Did he just wake up one day and decide he wants to be an accountant?  

10 Nov 2013 6:33 PM
Steel Dragon




10 Nov 2013 7:27 PM
Christy from CO

I do agree with the theory the he just plain went sour. It strikes me as odd that it would be considered good to put a horse to stud with a less-than-good attitude. I also am wondering if there were some very lucrative purchase offers made from overseas that require quiet for the moment. Just some wandering thoughts...

10 Nov 2013 8:02 PM
Arch the phoneman

A couple of very strong posts from Del Mar Dixie. Very interesting.  Steve, I want to thank you for your hard work in the week leading up to the BC. You along with Lennie really enhanced the experience for me. I always enjoy your pictures. The photo of Dr.Fager that you posted a couple of months ago is still in my head. By the way, at the tail end of the NBC telecast I noticed a handsome man in a coat and tie out on the track with either a camera or tape recorder in his hand walking up to Kathy Ritvo. I think it was Steve Haskin living the life I can only dream about.

10 Nov 2013 9:03 PM

The fact is like many horses before him Orb excelled at Gulfstream, freaked in the mud in the Derby and it was nothing short of a disaster after that. His Preakness was a flop blamed on him not liking to run inside horses or the dead rail. His Belmont was a bigger disaster as you could not have asked for a better setup for a closer in a mile and a half race, and by the way before the Belmont Orb looked as good as a horse could look. He did NOT look tired. He got a perfect ground saving trip in the Travers had a brief lead in the stretch and lost it to two better horses then went backwards in the Gold Cup where he was badly overbet. Its always about the money no matter who it is. They are asking 25g to start. How much is the other over hyped Derby winner - Fusaichi Pegasus getting now?  

10 Nov 2013 9:54 PM
Steve Haskin

Arch, if it was handsome man you saw it had to be someone else.

10 Nov 2013 10:26 PM

Orb certainly looked promising during the first half of the year with wins in The Fountain of Youth, The Florida Derby, and the ultimate prize, The Kentucky Derby. While Orb's third place finishes in The Belmont and The Travers were respectable, like another Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, the horse was winless after the Derby.  His last place finish in The Jockey Club Gold Cup was (for me at least) painful to watch.  The announcement by his connections to retire Orb was indeed a shock considering the news earlier had been that they were pointing him to The Cigar Mile.  I speculate that a "change of heart" and a wonderful offer from Claiborne to bring him "home" to the place where he was foaled prompted the decision.  If Orb had run in The Cigar Mile and lost yet again, it would further serve to tarnish his reputation.  Like Mine That Bird, there may be nothing physically wrong with the horse other than the fact he does not seem to have the desire or interest to win.  So as the old saying goes, "Quit while you are ahead".  In the best interest of the horse, let him retire sound and reside on Claiborne Farm as a Kentucky Derby winner along side Blame, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic.  I, for one, am relieved that he is remaining in the United States and hope that he has a happy, peaceful life, not to mention a successful career as a stallion.

11 Nov 2013 1:26 AM

As surprised as I was by Orb's retirement, I was shocked by the sale of Point Of Entry to Adena rather than a retirement to stud at Claiborne, the traditional destination for the top horses in the Phipps stable.  As one of the last good sons of the great Dynaformer and from a good Phipps family, Point Of Entry would have been a far more desireable stallion prospect than others which have been retired to Claiborne in recent years.  Bold Ruler, Seeking The Gold, Easy Goer, Buckpasser - all Phipps-breds retired to the storied pastures of Claiborne for their second career.  Why not Point Of Entry?  He was surely as much desired by Claiborne as he was by Adena.  And Boisterous?  As a successful, stakes-winning son of Distorted Humour - an outstanding sire whose sons are notably missing from the stallion barn at Claiborne - why was he also not retired to the legendary stud farm? Other horses with lesser pedigrees and racing records are to be found there.  Why not Point Of Entry and Boisterous?  There is far more unsaid than has been stated to date.

11 Nov 2013 2:07 AM
The Deacon

Steve:  Not to change the subject but I am wondering if you were going to post a blog about Hollywood Park. My heart is breaking as I spent so many years there in my youth. To come to reality that the curtain is about to fall on a hallowed race track is about more then I can bare.

I have been pretty upset about the whole thing since we were all informed. The sign of the times, maybe but for horse racing loyalist

losing a great race track is heart breaking. Nevertheless I was hoping you could share some old Hollywood Park memories

11 Nov 2013 3:37 AM
lunar spook

It just seems to me that the entire racing world from owners to trainers on down , cant wait to rush the colts to the breeders shed , its happening in Europe as well , I would have love to see what DECLARATION OF WAR AND FRANKLE could have went on to do , but these days unless your gelded , you will have a 6-8 race career at best  , but the old adage still holds true MONEY TALKS !

11 Nov 2013 8:31 AM

As fans we all deserve more.

That is why Zenyatta was such a treat..

As far as them retiring any horse as a 3 year old I say whatever take your toy and go home.

Better part, I like is the commercials trying to sell them as a stud.

Just sitting chilly until derby talk starts.

Nice pics Steve.

11 Nov 2013 9:32 AM
Bill Two

Well, Phipps and Janney have an investment in Orb and wish to protect it.  It's obvious the horse has some problems which the owners don't care to discuss.  As a Derby winner he's got a big shot at stud and they don't want to do anything to jeopardize it.  A few more performances like the JCGC and he may not be able to get booked to the same quality of mares he otherwise would have.

11 Nov 2013 10:28 AM

Thinking about this again, I've come up with the possibility that Orb is being retired because he IS a derby winner. I tried to put myself in the owner's shoes. My horse won the Kentucky derby. My  pony has now crossed into the elite club of derby winners. After thinking I died and went to heaven, reality sets in that my horse is now on a losing streak and with each race his reputation as a champion is being tarnished. I can hear the whispers, "a fluke", "just got lucky". I start to doubt my beloved horse. How many races will he lose, 3,5,10? Has he lost his heart to run? Will he ever win again? How will this effect his status as a derby winner? What will his fans think of him? I've made my decision. I can't bear to watch him spiral downward. I don't want to further damage his image as a champion thoroughbred who won the most prestigious race in America. He's no longer just a race horse, he's a derby winner. That's how I want him to be remembered, the one who won the roses. I don't want that vision to be clouded by his losses. I've decided to retire him now and preserve his dignity.  Money has no bearing on my decision. I love this horse, he's my pride and joy, and I care about his legacy. Just some food for thought.

11 Nov 2013 10:37 AM

Steel Dragon, it's true that Thoroughbreds are bred to run, but not all of them want to race. That's one of the reasons for so many OTTB retraining facilities, like Second Chance Ranch in Washington or Horse Creek Thoroughbreds in South Dakota (they're trained to be ranch horses there). I've had several OTTB's that I've used for hunting, polo, and trail riding. Orb might be a perfect candidate for a new career if his owners didn't consider him to be such great stallion potential (which I do not).

11 Nov 2013 11:08 AM
Tiz Herself

Definitely am going to miss Orb - he joins Bernardini, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Big Brown, Any Given Saturday, Discreet Cat, Octave, Street Sense, etc. the question of what could have been? what might have been? However, I wish Orb the best in retirement - in a few years times we will get to see little Orbs running around.

Although the majority of this year's three year old crop is now retired and in the breeding shed or otherwise, am looking forward to the return (hopefully of)

Normandy Invasion

Will Take Charge




Frac Daddy



Governor Charlie





Admiral Kitten

Air Squadron

Balance the Books


Bern Identity

Black Onyx

Brown Almigthy

Capo Bastone


Charming Kitten

Code West


Den's Legacy

Dewey Square

Dreaming of Julia

Kauai Katie

Dynamic Sky

Forty Tales

Fury Kapcori

He's Had Enough

Know More

Long River


Midnight Taboo

Omega Star

Palace Malice

Power Broker

Princess of Sylmar

Quinzieme Monarque


Super Ninety Nine

Title Contender


Unlimited Budget

Rose to Gold

Close Hatches

Midnight Lucky

the above three year olds from the boys and girls who am hopeful are coming back.

11 Nov 2013 11:21 AM

Come on Steve.......You know it's about the money! What would you like them to say? Orb doesn't look good and is struggling?! Maybe he is not as good as we all thought.

Now give us our $40,000 stud fee!....Really?

Like it or not,obviously a money move!

11 Nov 2013 11:52 AM
Jean in Chicago

Steve, I can't completely agree with the 'he's their horse and they can do want they want with him'.  If so, none of us would be angry with the owners/trainers who send horses into lower and lower class races.  Most of us here love horses and want to see what is best for them.

 Personally, if I owned a thoroughbred, I'd be terrified every time he stepped on to a track and probably would collapse from either high blood pressure or bleeding ulcers.  On the other hand, 2 & 3 yr olds are still comparative babies and I'd like to see what they do at 4 or 5 when they've grown up.  Sure, Wise Dan is a gelding and Zenyatta a mare, but would we know them at all if we just went by their 3 yr old races?

 We can speculate all day about Orb's retirement, but I don't think we'll ever get a final answer.  But after seeing Zenyatta or your picture of Damascus running around their paddocks with their tails up and flying, maybe they're just happier being horses and not racing machines.  And it takes a wise horse person to recognize when its time leave the track.

And Steve, if you wanted to try the National Geographic thing, I expect you could get a bunch of female fans to pose naked as long as we could stand behind the horses.  I'd have to stand behind the hindquarters, since I'm short enough to walk under a thoroughbred's belly.  Or we could make "colorful native costumes' out of jockey silks.

11 Nov 2013 1:27 PM
Steve Haskin

If you think this is about money you obviously know nothing about Phipps and Janney. If it was about money, this column would never have been written. Trust me, they wanted to race him at 4.

11 Nov 2013 1:28 PM

I believe we're missing the original commentary's point, but some phrases throws us off. The fans deserve an explanation is just a very small view. The public in general need an "interesting" (to say it somehow) explanation, not for their sake but for the sake of the sport. We don't want people to get bored because of repeated disillusion and bad PR management. So a good written explanation does a lot for the sports health. Now, the big problem is: As an

owner with my future benefits in mind, do I say the truth or not? Only if fast money is the reason, would this be somewhat embarrasing. But there are nice ways to go around that and still have a good PR explanation. Remember, the sport is the one benefitting or hurting from this, not a few fans. On the other hand, what if he's a bleeder, or he does not want racing, or he has leg issues. Do I tell this publicly or not? Would this devaluate him?  Really? I would say Breeder's already know or will find about any of these problems anyhow. And yet, in the long term we've also seen breeders pay expensive breed to multiple studs with these defects. So maybe a honest, well-written explanation will do good for the sport (not just the fans). Even saying they don't want to run him anymore because he's lost interest, in the end sounds good, as it is ultimately for his safety. Further than that, they can do what they want (except hurt them).

11 Nov 2013 2:08 PM
Soldier Course


I like your reason. It's so pure. Chances are it's not the real reason for Orb's retirement, but it sure would be a good one.

11 Nov 2013 4:26 PM
Tiz Herself

2014 still has promise to be an exciting year - imagine Cozmic One and Jess's Dream will both ignite even more following than they already have.

Wise Dan will be back and it looks like Palace Malice has been confirmed. Cannot wait to see him at four! Curlin was just as monsterous at four as he was at three.

Sounds like Groupie Doll might be back - imagine the results will depend on her next start vs the boys.

Nothing has been really said either way regarding Mucho Macho Man but hope he comes back, too.

Fans of Barbaro can appreciate too that he has a two year old full brother Pennmarydel.

Rachel's sis Samantha Nicole should be soon to start her career too.

11 Nov 2013 6:02 PM

I agree with all of your comments here Steve.  We may never know why, we live in a world where we are not privy to full disclosure.  Perhaps he lost some momentum or lost his desire to race and compete, perhaps they don't want him to regress even more, assuming he is on that route.  Perhaps he's more valuable at stud now than if he lost the Cigar Mile.  Do we have a right to know, I should think so, we are the core fan base and have invested our time, emotions, money, and support into the horse and the sport.  

Most of the "retirement" propaganda anyway in general sounds like it was written by PR firms, not the connections.  Breeding is where the real money is made so if the stud fee is $40,000 X how many mares he covers a breeding season (say 100+) and there you have it.  

I'll miss Orb, he is a handsome looking colt and had so much promise Derby time.  The photos are great Steve.  He'll go on now to make us little orbits and circles.

11 Nov 2013 6:19 PM
Steel Dragon

Wren: Thanks for the reply - didn't know about that.

Tiz: I'd be stunned if MMM came back...

11 Nov 2013 7:21 PM


Exactly what I was thinking when I posted "they don't want him to regress even more" above.  Blogs ago I had mentioned he was on some kind of a downward spiral, him and a jockey who's name escapes me right this minute (Alberado maybe) but for very different reasons.  It could be they want his fans to remember him as the Derby Winner and not tarnish that image with further losses.

But I don't know, Steve says it's not the breeding money, they wanted to race him at age 4.  Maybe it's as simple as all the other early retirements at age 3, barring injuries.  Maybe it's the trend, go out in a blaze of glory while still young before you are a has been or also ran.  Maybe their primary goal was the Derby and they felt he did enough as much as they would have wanted a 4 yr. old campaign?  We can second guess it all we want but we still don't really know.

11 Nov 2013 9:42 PM

if orb is a bad bleeder, retiring him is the right decision, and would explain the cagey-ness of the explanation. he would be sound, but not a great breeding prospect.

is the rumor only based on his hyperbaric treatments? if so, it's baseless.

hyperbaric treatment can't treat or prevent bleeding. it can promote healing of certain types of injuries but it can't repair broken capillaries or prevent them from bursting in the future.

it's a very sound treatment for all horses briefly post-race, because it it speeds recovery times. but it has to be used sparingly.

the danger of excessive hyperbaric treatment is that the more you do it, the less able you are to cope with running at sea level oxygen levels. it delivers pure oxygen, which is not what's available.

the effect is just like going from sea level to a higher altitude. it is essentially putting the horse below sea level--which makes you tire much more quickly, just like you do if you go to vale.

both bleeding and too much time in the hyperbaric chamber could absolutely explain orb's travers and JCGC efforts--starting out strong but unable to maintain, by a horse proven he can get the classic distance (the belomont doesn't really count, 12f is hard for most horses, even those proven at 10f--and front runners have always had the advantage in that race).

given that a very good horse, who won 5 in a row, and manged 3rds in the belmont and the travers (and lost the travers by less than a length), has been compared to mine that bird and called a fluke several times in this thread, would be enough for me to retire him, if he was mine.

palace malice's wins are more deserving of the fluke title than orb's, as are will take charge's--he had a strong finish in the BCC, but so did drosslemyer...i'll be impressed if he can finish ahead of game on dude twice (assuming game on dude does run in the clark). and as much as i like much macho man and am happy for his connections for his BCC win...he's never proven to be a consistently strong horse--he looses far more races that he should have won than game on dude does...for whatever reason.

my theory is that game on dude is too used to small fields, and the large fields of the BCC make him uncomfortable and throw him off.

he never ran in the TC race as 3 year-old, his only large field attempts have been his 3 BCC's and only chantel put him in a position where field size was moot--in a clear lead.

all three top finishers are horses used to large fields.

12 Nov 2013 11:32 AM

I too am disappointed that Orb was retired.Like many here I think that the horse must have given the impression that he was not thrilled with training or with racing.  If that is so, he will tarnish his lovely early 3 yr old campaign if forced to race now or at 4. His Travers race was great for a come back race. The next race, not so hot. So he through in a clunker. I think the money it costs to insure a Derby Winner on the track was not a problem for the connections but how will we ever know? I hope that Orb will prove useful as a stallion and have the safe, retired life he has earned. I will miss him on the track.

12 Nov 2013 3:07 PM

Orb was not at the very top of my list of faves in this crop. But his connections deserve to win the kind of races Orb triumphed in.  His form has obviously tailed off for whatever reason and that is most likely why his top drawer connections retired him.  I would assume they were not concerned about a lower stud fee, but did not want to see him floundering in races.  Usually the horses that keep on racing have something still to prove...and in any event Orb will not be there to contest it.  It is sad that the industry has far fewer Round Tables that are small tough and durable... and that one got away from Claiborne as I recall.  It was the horses that ran a lot, like Swaps and even the carefully managed Zenyatta, that build those fan bases.  

13 Nov 2013 1:51 PM

 I remember the good old days when horses not only raced until they were five or six, at least, but fans had a connection and knowledge to the owners, not just the jockeys and trainers.  That is missing and, I feel, adds to the downfall of racing. I know that, if I had a broodmare to breed, I would avoid all stallions that didn't race or didn't stay racing through their fourth season, at least.  I would want a sound horse to breed to.  That might be at the root of the secrecy surrounding Orb...there are breeders that want to breed to only sound horses.  If the horse is unsound or sour, they don't have to broadcast it but the announcement should give us a better reason.  Fans are the backbone of the industry...if too many get disgusted at cover-ups, it isn't good for the future of racing.  I still think it would be better to feature the owners of these horses a little more like they did in the old days...it put more of a human touch to the industry.

13 Nov 2013 2:01 PM
Greg R

I'm startled at how many people are able to read Orb's mind and to determine that he no longer wants to race.  I don't possess that ability to psycho-analyze a horse.  I do, however, know that some horses take longer than others to get back into the swing after a prolonged absence.  Orb took a while to get going at a top level at the beginning of the year, remember?  But then he reeled off a succession of sharp wins.  He was NOT a "one-shot wonder!"  But that spring form cycle peaked with the Derby and could not be sustained.  Such a cycle might be repeatable, however.  The major reason I supported him for the KY Derby was that he beat Violence, for which I had high regard, and that win was not over a sloppy track, so "Boom!" there goes another myth about him.  Oh, well.  The best of so many horses' racing potential has gone unrealized.  So, farewell, Orb.  Happy grazing.

14 Nov 2013 12:07 AM
rachel fan

Orb's situation is reminiscent of Rachel Alexandra's sudden departure from racing without a satisfying explanation from their connections. Both horses were sound and no mention was made of any injuries, although Steve Asmussen made a telling comment in the early part of Rachel's 2010 campaign when she just didn't seem to have the same speed or fire. He said something to the effect of, 'she has to want to win.' That surely should have told us something about her condition and where they were ultimately headed. It's too bad that we, the fans, end up feeling like we've been robbed by not having the opportunity to see these magnificent horses develop and mature, or to even say farewell, which was the most painful part in Rachel's case.

14 Nov 2013 1:31 AM

After the Derby, we never saw that Orb again.

He was corked. And what is that, you ask? I've always wondered but I don't know what happens. You know it when you see it. A horse puts out an awesome performance, and one only. Still fast, looks good, going sound, vet is baffled, but the extra something isn't there any more.

The first horse I saw corked, a filly, was run in the Oaks on a Monday setting a flyaway pace and having no answer to the one filly who had stayed in range of her and was able to mount a closing run. On the following Saturday they sent her in the colts' classic. She set the pace and was ultimately eased.

She raced through four, sound, looked sharp and she could beat any horse on the grounds . . . for five furlongs. Never placed again beyond that even in an allowance race against fillies.


If you (or a couple of vet teams) can't find anything, it's not blameworthy to say "There's something wrong. We just can't find it."

Retirement is never the wrong thing for the horse. They can pump up their egos just fine chasing the dogs out of their paddock.

14 Nov 2013 2:50 AM
Mike Relva


Thanks for raising the questions regarding Orb. Another example when fans get excited about a horse,he's retired too early.

14 Nov 2013 10:07 AM

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